Thursday, 10 May 2018

Instagram. This author is lovin’ it! Moira Butterfield

I recently went on an Instagram course, and I also had a chat with a top publishing publicity person about my upcoming book. Here’s a taste of what I learned.

I am new to Instagram but I feel really at home there. I guess it’s because it’s such a visual thing, and I enjoy seeing everyone’s photos. I know that many authors seem to be more active on Twitter but it bores me. And as for Facebook, I prefer to keep it mostly for my non-writing life. On Instagram I’ve set up two accounts. One is private and I can limit it to my family and close friends. One is public and for anyone. I’ve made that account - #moirabutterfieldauthor – a business account, so I’ll be able to see stats to discover which of my posts is viewed the most. I’ve been running it for about 3 weeks and I’ve been following other creatives and found some lovely book content to see from all around the world (I've spent my writing life working on highly-illustrated books).

However, I quickly stopped pressing the button that shared the Instagram post on Twitter because it simply provided a link to Instagram, and I don’t think people will bother to click on it. I will do Twitter separately, using @moiraworld.  

On the course I learnt that I should ‘curate’ my Instagram posts so that they have a recognizable theme. I was told that many authors do this hopelessly because they don’t think about what their followers might actually like to see about them and their work. It helps to think of what you are doing as visual storytelling, with an overall USP.

This seems to me to preclude pre-scheduling repetitive advertising images, which is surely using social media in the wrong way. Yes to pre-scheduling your posts if you need to, but no to dull repeated advertising. That gives your followers nothing of your personality or creative life. 

Instead I‘ve been adding, for example, photos of some of my office buddies (I have office robots and toy dinosaurs) and things I surround myself with when I’m writing, as well as pics from my own books and books I like (often vintage).  

My office robots say hello, by the way. 

An image from my office 'pinboard of positivity'. 

I’ve been leaving comments on photos I really like and engaging with others a little bit. That really is the point of it, surely? I was told by the top publishing publicity person I spoke to that I mustn’t just ‘shout’ on Twitter. I must engage with other people. So I took that to heart, too.

A vintage image I shared, from my old Time and Tune school book. 

I’ve been told the best Instagram times to post in the UK are either 8am or 5pm – ‘going home’ time - when people might look at their feed. I was told to post at the same time each day because Instagram recognizes that and is more likely to share the post more widely as a consequence. 

I don’t have time to spend ages looking at social media every day so I am giving it half an hour - first thing in the morning and then a check on things in the evening. I can’t let it become a time eater.

I had no idea that people ‘curate their grid’ on Instagram. That’s the selection of squares of images that people see when they search for you and decide whether to follow you or not. That grid is your ‘shop window’, and if it’s random and doesn’t reflect anything much, they won’t bother. You can do this by archiving photos you don’t want to be on the grid.

The aim is to keep the feed as consistent as possible, which means sticking to a tone, colour theme and content style.

I was introduced to a useful free photo editing app called A Color Story, as an easy way to play with editing photos. It's best to take photos near a natural light source (ie: a window) and you might want to think about adding props to create more of a narrative for your photo if you want to. You can see lots of people doing this on #bookstagram.

I put this in as an example of me trying and failing to take a good photo of my book. I think it's too sideways but it is on a nice background. The message of the course was that you need to play to get your images right for your needs. 

There are lots of other things you can get into, but don’t ask me. I’m only learning! It might be worth going on a short course yourself or listening to podcasts such as Hashtag Authentic for insider tips (I haven’t done that yet. That’s from the course notes).

The big idea I took away from both the course and the PR chat was not to do this whole social media thing mechanistically. I have to engage with the other humans, not just push stuff at them. 

And now I’m off to check on my Instagram feed. See you there!

Moira Butterfield’s new book – Welcome To Our World – is out on June 7th. Published by Nosy Crow.

The course was run at Bath’s Makery workshop by #Lottie_Storey, who writes her own blog at


Penny Dolan said...

Moira, thanks for this encouragement to seek & investigate Instagram. Might look out for some local courses. Bath's a bit far away!

Moira Butterfield said...

Good idea, Penny. Mine was from 10.30 to 1.30, so not all day. That's about as much as I can handle!

Anne Booth said...

That was really helpful. I love twitter but I would like to do instagram too. Good luck with your book!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

I'm new to Instagram too and found your post really helpful. Interesting that Instagram recognises when you post if you do it at a regular time. One thing I've discovered, its best to take your photos in square format rather than landscape or portrait as that's the way they are displayed on Instagram... square.

My problem is that I have varied interests... travel as well as chldren's books, nature shots and textural things and wire objects and oh the list goes on and on. How does one curate all this?

Anonymous said...

Thanks to share information with me. Nice blog An Awfully Big Blog Adventure on this topics. buy medicine online

Rowena House said...

Gosh. Didn't realise there was so much to Instagram. I mostly post pics of my darling dog! Really interesting to know how the pros do it! Also, we seem to have been spammed by some online medicine thing. Can anyone at ABBA take that comment down?

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Sorry Moira just followd the wrong you on Instagram... the private one. Just ignore. Now following the right you... the author!

Moira Butterfield said...

I guess it’s about getting across the real you. Might be worth writing down your aims for it, for yourself, and then sticking to those.